Thursday, October 25, 2012

Village: Tasty Minstrel Games

How to have a Prestigious Life in VILLAGE: An abridged pictorial review

Village by Tasty Minstrel Games
2-4 Players ages 12 and up
60-90 minutes
I don’t know if I would call this a worker placement game. Like worker placement games you do place workers to earn points throughout gameplay and at the end. Some actions, however, are carried out without placing workers on the board. On your turn you will take an influence cube or plague cube from an action space. This may enable you to perform the action without placing a worker. You may also choose to keep the cube but not perform the action. Another difference is that when you do place a worker, it does not return to you at the end of the round. It will stay where it is until it dies or is specifically called back using a family action. In addition, your workers die, and their deaths are part of how points are determined.

The workers in this game are several generations of a family. Let’s take a look at the game board to get an idea of where your family will be working.

How to Earn Prestige Throughout the Game
G. Church At the end of each round, the player with the majority of meeples attending mass at the church (G) will earn 2 prestige points. (We have had players earn 10 points on this alone.)
At game end, you will earn the points at the top of the stained glass windows. The higher each meeple is in the church hierarchy, the more points awarded at the end of the game.
In this picture yellow gets 4 prestige and blue gets 2. If blue had 4 meeples in that same window, he would get points for each meeple, a total of 8.

C. Craft As a craft (C) action, you can sell your grain and keep the coins (at the mill), which will then count as one prestige point each at the end of the game.

F. Council ChamberAfter your worker makes it to the 4th stage of the council chamber (F), you can buy 3 prestige points with one coin as a council chamber action. At game end, you will earn the points at the top of each stage of the council chamber for the workers still in this position.
In this example, yellow gets 6 prestige at game end and blue gets 2.

D. Market DayYou can earn points by providing goods or grain to customers during the market day (D) action in each round. You then keep the customer tile and it is added to your score at the end of the game.
In this example, I provided a customer with a horse for 4 points, another customer a bag of grain and a scroll for 3 points and so on. These customer tiles remain facedown in my player area until the points are added to my prestige at the end of the game.

E. TravelYou immediately move up 3 prestige points for visiting a neighboring village in your travels (E). The coins and cubes obtained at other villages can also assist you with other actions in the round. You also receive points at the end of the game depending on how many villages you visited in total. As you can see here, travel to all 6 villages and receive 18 prestige at the end of the game.
How Death Occurs and How it Earns You Prestige

Various actions will cost you either influence cubes or time or both influence cubes and time. When you spend time you move your marker around the time track on your farm board. This causes your family members to age, and when the marker passes the bridge, one of them dies.
You then place one of your oldest family members in their resting place, either in the chronicle (which will give you prestige points at the end of the game)
For example, the player with 5 family members in the village chronicle receives 12 points.
or in a common grave (which will not give you prestige points at the end of the game).
Timing deaths is an important part of the strategy.
Game end is signaled when all spaces in the village chronicle or the common graves are filled.

Concluding Thoughts

The game scales very well, as there are a different number of cubes available for the different number of players and these cubes determine how many actions are played.
When we first played the game I liked how the theme seemed true to life. All of the ways to earn prestige, the actions costing time, and someone beating you to it. I also recall saying that is was a relaxing game. I didn’t feel like I was under a lot of pressure. Now in some games I have found myself holding my breath in anticipation.
It really seems well balanced. You can repeatedly try different strategies. We have had games end where points in several areas depend on who has a family member die first. There are games where we have had to play defense, simply taking cubes from certain areas to keep the other player from performing the action there, or even from obtaining that cube for action elsewhere. One action can impact points scored in several different areas, for both yourself and your opponents.
In the last game we played I had to weigh out several factors, knowing that if I took a travel action the required time would cause me to lose church majority from the death that would occur. I would also lose my chance to use the coin earned by that action, and I would be left with a family member on my farm that didn’t earn me any points. I could have used my cubes to call back a family member and give myself more time to put another in the church bag… there were so many factors to consider. There are always many factors to consider. I don’t see this game getting stale.
When I am not playing the game I am thinking about it. When we finish a game we want to play another. This is the most amazing game out of all of the games I have played this year. Don’t miss this one.

Atlantis Rising: Zman Games

Atlantis Rising
Worker placement/ Co-op
2-6 players 13 and up (or in our case 10 and up)
30-90 minutes

Atlantis is sinking, you have to work together to get your people off of the island and in the meantime, fend off the Athenians who are attacking.

Game Play:
Pick your character. Priest,
or Scholar, for example.
Each player card includes convenient reminders on how to play, and gives you a special ability.

First you place your workers around the board
to collect resources, knowledge cards,
more workers, or fight the Athenians.
Then the other players place all of their workers.

Then you each draw a misfortune card. These are usually floods,

but some will take away various things, remove workers or make obtaining resources more difficult.
Drawing the misfortune card may cause you to lose your chance to use the space you placed your worker on. You can sometimes use mystical energy, knowledge cards and special abilities in various ways to get around this. One of these is to place a courage marker with your worker, which gives him the courage to work through the flood.

After the misfortunes, players take turns using all of their workers that remain where they were placed: gathering workers, resources, mystic energy,and/or knowledge cards. These are called productive actions, and some require a dice roll to obtain the resource.

Oh no! You thought you were doing well when the Athenians press their advantage and attack! (This happens every turn!) Roll the dice for the Athenians and add it to the number on their attack track. If you don’t have enough placements in the navy, then more parts of the island are flooded.

Now if you have the resources you need, you can build a component to your escape ship. The components give you a nice bonus, and when your team builds all ten before the whole island floods you win!

Some thoughts:

The components are very good quality and work well with the game.
There are wooden workers and even a wooden Athenian ship. I love the mystical energy orbs (the eyes in the picture). The board fits together like a simple puzzle.
It is cool that the back of the board really looks like the island is flooding, but I have some concerns about it holding up. At least the front isn't showing this wear.

It seems to scale well from 2-5 players, more players means more misfortune cards, and the Athenians also attack faster and stronger the more players you have. But you also have many more workers to collect resources, knowledge cards, mystical energy and fight in the navy. It seems it should equal out, but for some reason when it's just Mom, Dad, and daughter, we always do great!

In our 5 player game, we barely scraped by... We had maybe one more round in us before it would've been too late.

This does have a worker placement feel to it, and since that is probably my favorite mechanic, I am a happy camper. The co-op aspect really makes it fun when we take turns collecting resources because we are all holding our breath as the dice rolls and cheering as the other players are successful.

I wasn't sure what to expect out of this as a co-op game. Is this a lighter game like Castle Panic or a heavy game like Pandemic? Atlantis Rising definitely has a different feel to it, then say, Pandemic, where we usually find ourselves discussing options for a lengthy time trying to figure out how to scrape by.

I am thinking of Castle Panic, Pandemic, Forbidden Island, and Defenders of the Realm at the moment. I would say the difficulty level is similar to Forbidden Island, but the game-play experience is completely different. You can have all of the same pitfalls of a co-op game, which we have experienced in both a lighter and a heavier game: Mr. Boss can take over everyone's turn for them, allowing no one else to make decisions, Mr. Analytical can drag out each turn by insisting on discussing every option with unanimous agreement, and Mr. Coudn't Care Less might have to be told what to do every turn. I feel that some co-op games are more prone to these problems though, and, IMO, this one is not so much. So that it stays fun for everyone playing, just remember to let everyone take their turn.

We really enjoy the game. It is fun for Mom and Dad as well as our daughter, and it is also the first worker placement game that our 10 year old has been able to play and enjoy, so that is another consideration. Our group of adults really enjoyed it too. The theme is great and the combination of co-op and worker placement makes this game different than others we have to choose from, and that makes it a quality addition to our collection.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Smash Up: AEG

Marvel Superhero Squad Card Game: Upper Deck

Takenoko: Asmodee Games

Ugh!: Calliope Games

Village: Tasty Minstrel Games

Villagers and Villians: Studio 9 Games

Jungle Ascent (prototype): 5th Street Games

Bears!: Fireside Games

Little Devils: Stonghold Games

Castle Dash: 5th Street Games

Lost Temple: Stronghold Games

Crow and Pitcher: 5th Street Games

Battle Beyond Space: Zman Games